Multi-agency report on children sexually abused within the family

By agency reporter
February 5, 2020

Children sexually abused by family members are going unseen and unheard in too many cases, while abusers evade justice, according to a new report.

Inspectorates Ofsted, HMICFRS, Care Quality Commission and HMI Probation found that local agencies are often woefully ill-equipped to deal with child sex abuse in families. Efforts to prevent abuse are largely absent, while ineffective criminal investigations are, in the worst cases, leaving children at risk.

Responding to the report, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England said: “In 2015,  I published a report warning that the vast majority of children who have been sexually abused at home were not known to the authorities and that a system which waits for children to tell someone cannot be effective.

“It was clear then that many professionals working with children, and the system, were ill-equipped to identify and act on the signs of abuse. Five years later, amid the rising cost of children’s social care and with less spent on early intervention, many children are still being let down badly.

“The Government’s promise to hold a review into the care system must be a means to reset the support for these vulnerable children – to provide the early identification and the help children need, and child-centred therapeutic support for children to help them recover.

“The Lighthouse Project in London, based on the Icelandic Barnahus model, is a beacon of good practice for children who have been sexually abused, and I would like to see it replicated across the country.”

Iryna Pona, Policy Manager at The Children’s Society, said: “It is appalling that children facing horrific sexual abuse at the hands of those closest to them are too often not getting support and protection from local agencies. Sexual abuse by a family member shatters young lives, and we cannot allow it to remain a taboo subject. 

“Time and again we see the same shortcomings in the way professionals respond to sexual abuse of children within families as we do when it comes to sexual exploitation outside the home. 

“We need a significant culture change that puts children at the heart of police and social services’ response, coupled with better training for professionals working with children and clear information sharing processes at a local level. But these issues will be extremely difficult to solve without major investment in services for children and families – starting by addressing the £3 billion funding gap facing children’s services departments by 2025.” 

* More information on the report here

* The report can be downloaded here

* More about the Barnahus model here

* Children's Commissioner

* The Children's Society


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